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Writing To Design/Designing To Write: Using The Correlations Between Communication And Engineering To Improve Student Reflection

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Innovation in Design Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1330.1 - 7.1330.11



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Paper Authors

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Anneliese Watt

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Jeff Froyd

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Julia Williams

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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Session 2132

Writing to Design/Designing to Write: Using the Correlations between Communication and Engineering to Improve Student Reflection

Jeff Froyd, Texas A&M University Anneliese Watt, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Julia M. Williams, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Abstract Currently engineering programs in the U.S. are incorporating design into technical curricula, from first-year design experiences to senior capstone, client-centered projects. Included in the engineering design emphasis is a focus on inter-personal skills that enhance professional engineering work, particularly communication. The purpose of assigning students to a capstone design project is to give them the opportunity to develop their skills in the context of a situated learning experience. As such, we expect students to achieve a specific set of learning outcomes that are not customarily required in the traditional engineering classroom. This paper identifies learning outcomes in both design and writing, then associates strategies from each field as methods to improve student learning. Borrowing strategies across disciplinary boundaries, this paper provides valuable insights for faculty in both engineering and technical communication who are interested in expanding the repertoire of strategies they use to teach design and communication.

Introduction Engineering design and writing, especially technical writing, are processes that are receiving increased attention within engineering curricula. Both engineering design courses and technical writing courses instruct students in processes that create artifacts with a purpose: a document that works, a design that works. In addition to a common purpose, writing and engineering design are often closely related in engineering practice. Technical writing is often aimed at creating documents—e.g., memos, reports, or manuals—that are closely tied to an artifact or the process of creating an artifact. Engineers who are creating an artifact, in addition to creating the artifact, often generate numerous documents about the artifact. Therefore, practicing engineers commonly couple the two synthetic activities.

Although the processes of technical writing and engineering design are closely related in practice, students often learn about the two processes in unrelated courses. Engineering students learn about design via a class in their engineering program; engineering students often leave the department to attend a technical writing course offered by a different program. There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule. Recently, capstone engineering design courses are more often coupled with technical writing courses. Professors from New Mexico State University (Wojahn, Dyke, Riley, Hensel, and Brown) have shared their experiences with developing a capstone, client-based course

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Watt, A., & Froyd, J., & Williams, J. (2002, June), Writing To Design/Designing To Write: Using The Correlations Between Communication And Engineering To Improve Student Reflection Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10731

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